Audiences of documentary films already know that the truth behind ‘ashes to ashes’ is much grosser. Aiste Žegulyte calls her new movie Animus Animalis (a story about People, Animals, and Things. She shows the heads of dead animals, speeding up the process of decomposition. Those scenes remind us of death’s grim realities. We remember this even if she spends most of her film showing the opposite of that. Her doc is actually about the different ways that people either slow down or try to forget that process. And she finds all of those people in her home country of Lithuania.
There’s a refreshing and seamless anonymity to the way Žegulyte depicts her subjects. Many of them are deer hunters, deer farmers, taxidermists, and museum staff. She points out the surprising and literal lack of separation between church and state. A priest shows and blesses the hunter’s kills’ pelts. The film has children growing up around pelts or preserved animals, expressing how normal this process is. And she shows no judgment here, as it’s obvious that these are honorable ways to make a living. The hunters, nonetheless, respect their kills by eating and sharing their meat, which many cultures still practice today.
Žegulyte also taps into the inherent interest towards the other industries she’s depicting. The taxidermists and the museum staff live their daily lives despite surrounding themselves with death. They talk to clients who want to remember the animals they love. Preserving the way the latter looked when they were still alive. And unlike, presumably there’s no hand holding in this process. Žegulyte originally made this with the intention of contemplating mortality. In doing so she ended up presenting her own culture’s lack of sentimentality towards it. Both the culture and the way she presents it is commendably fascinating.
- Genre: documentary, Foreign
- Release Date: 4/29/2019
- Directed by: Aiste Žegulyte
- Studio: Meno avilys
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